It's time to better know the incoming class of true freshmen football players at Ohio State. We provide these comprehensive player profiles each offseason, titled "Better Know a Buckeye", to provide Ohio State football fans a more thorough understanding of our incoming freshmen and how they may factor into Ohio State football's immediate and long-term plans.
- Size: 6-4/225
- Position: TE
- (Hometown) School: Maple Heights, OH (Maple Heights)
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking: 321
- Position Ranking: 11 (TE)
- State Ranking: 12 (OH)
Kierre Hawkins is our second installment in this series. He's a tight end prospect who will come to Ohio State from Maple Heights High School. He makes history as the first player from that high school to sign a letter of intent with Ohio State's football program. He committed to Ohio State midway through his junior season in 2014.
I retell his recruitment below and discuss his commitment. I proceed with a scouting report of Kierre Hawkins, who will enroll at Ohio State hoping to be the first great flex tight end/H-back of Urban Meyer's tenure at Ohio State. This includes a discussion of where Hawkins could improve when he enrolls at Ohio State. I discuss the possibility of a redshirt year as a freshman before concluding with highlight film for the reader to watch at the end of his profile.
Maple Heights High School doesn't produce a lot of talent. Erique Robertson signed with Illinois in 2007 as part of a freshman class there that also included Arrelious Benn, Ian Thomas, and Martez Wilson. His classmate in 2007, Charles Brown, signed with North Carolina. Jeremy Graves signed with Cincinnati in 2012 from Maple Heights High School and just concluded his career at Illinois State.
These three names constitute outliers in an overall trend since 2002. Maple Heights does not produce a lot of talent. Even these players had unspectacular collegiate careers.
More Kierre Hawkins at 11W
Kierre Hawkins' legacy at Maple Heights was already going to be different from those in Maple Heights' recent past. This was apparent in the summer after his sophomore year when he hit the camp circuit. A one-day stint at Ohio State's advanced camps in June 2014 landed him on Ohio State's radar for the first time. He performed well and importantly demonstrated a good work ethic under Zach Smith's watchful eyes. Smith told Hawkins to keep working on his craft for the meantime.
A follow-up appearance at Friday Night Lights netted Hawkins an important scholarship offer from Kentucky. The Wildcats' program has accrued important capital in the Buckeye State since Mark Stoops took over the program in Lexington. He made Ohio high-priority for Kentucky football and hired Vince Marrow to lead his efforts. Recruits have responded
Hawkins expressed excitement about the Kentucky offer, citing the SEC intrigue. It took priority over the offers from Illinois, Toledo, and Bowling Green. However, even the excitement over the Kentucky offer came with an explicit qualifier from Hawkins that Ohio State was his "dream school". He was holding out for something even bigger.
Something even bigger came three weeks into his junior season when Ohio State offered. Hawkins' high school head coach said that Ohio State had been in contact for the past several weeks since that Friday Night Lights event. He also expressed that a commitment from Hawkins could be coming soon.
Hawkins' commitment came three weeks later when he committed to Ohio State during an unofficial visit for the 2014 Rutgers game.
He discussed how he committed to Ohio State during his community interview with 11W's readers.
The way Ohio State impressed me was sitting me in the room with the greatest coach of all time in 2014 before the Rutgers game. The fact that Urban Meyer knew my name, and wanting me to come to my dream school and play for him was a honor. How I committed was crazy I just walked up to him and told him face-to-face that I wanted to be a Buckeye and all the coaches were happy. It was great. There wasn't really any other schools ever involved.
Make no mistake that Hawkins was primarily influenced by the notion of playing for Ohio State, a thought that germinated since the 5th grade. He watched players of that era around 2008 and aspired to join them one day. He'll get his opportunity this fall.
Where He Excels
Ohio State has made prospects like Kierre Hawkins a priority on the recruiting trail since Meyer arrived at Ohio State. It's why it pursued Marcus Baugh in 2013. It signed Noah Brown in 2014, a player of a similar build who was poised for a breakout 2015 season before a leg injury sidelined him for the year. It also signed A.J. Alexander in last year's recruiting class.
Ohio State's program wants flex tight ends capable of creating matchup problems across the field. That's what Hawkins is capable of doing at Ohio State. This is good because Ohio State has experimented more with two-tight end sets of late with more emphasis on pre-snap motion to find advantageous matchups.
I'm most intrigued by what Hawkins does with the ball in his hand. He played some quarterback at Maple Heights and sometimes lined up at running back. Hawkins projects as a receiver but enjoys having the ball in his hands. He looks like a running back after the catch.
Must Work On
Any tight end who plays for Ohio State (or any program, for that matter) needs to be a capable run blocker. I don't know if this Kierre Hawkins at the moment. It could be, but I'd have no way of knowing from watching Hawkins' film. It looks as if Hawkins was by far the best player on the field for Maple Heights. Getting him the ball was the offense's priority. Having him lead block for someone else not as explosive with the ball was not as important.
Hawkins played a lot of positions without specializing in any one of them. He even played some linebacker and defensive end for Maple Heights. This served his team's purpose (i.e. win games), but it means the other tight ends Ohio State signed (Luke Farrell, Jake Hausmann) are likely better developed at the position than him.
I think Kierre Hawkins redshirts his first year on campus. Ohio State will return Noah Brown from injury, hopefully no worse for the leg injury. Marcus Baugh will command a lot of playing time and A.J. Alexander has eligibility to burn after his redshirt last year. Hawkins will have to demonstrate something in fall camp to command some playing time ahead of these options. I don't see it happening, but a redshirt may serve him well for 2017.